SLAPSHOT - Reviewed by Mike
Category/Format: Sport/Board Game
A game that delivers more excitement than you might expect when studying the contents on opening the box. All you get is one die; a deck of cards depicting ice-hockey players of various types with variable ability; 8 pawns and a simple board depicting where the card stacks should be placed and a 'scoring track'. There is also a scoring pad for those who wish to play a shorter version of the game.
A knowledge of ice-hockey might help understand the jargon but that's not a pre-requisite to enjoying the game. All you need to know is that there are 3 categories of player, these being Goalies, Defencemen and Forwards and there are separate decks for each category on the board. A team consists of 1 Goalie, 2 Defencemen and 3 Forwards.
At the start of the game players will build their team by selecting, one at a time in play order, one card from the category deck of their choice until their team is complete.
The scoring track consists of 10 rows, the bottom of which is marked START and the top of which is marked PLAYOFFS, with 8 rows in between. When players play matches against each other the victor moves their pawn one place up this ladder towards the PLAYOFFS row. When one player is able to place their pawn on to the PLAYOFFS row the 'Regular Season' ends and only the top 4 players at that time will go forward to the playoffs to contest the championship. Therefore your first objective is to get your team into one of the first 4 positions at the right time.
Each player can do ONE, and only one, of the following : - Trade; Draft; Play a Game
TRADE. The current player chooses an opposing manager with which to trade (he cannot refuse !). The chosen manager shuffles his 6 cards and places them face down on the table. The current player then calls out a number from 1 to 6 and the chosen manager reveals the cards one by one until the number selected is reached. This is then taken by the current player into his hand and he must secretly return a card from his hand of the same category (i.e a Forward for a Forward). Of course the other managers can see the strength or weakness of the team of the chosen manager, which may influence their choice of action.
DRAFT. The current player selects a card from his team and places it at the bottom of the appropriate category deck and takes the top card from the deck.
PLAY A GAME. This is the crux of the game and provides its interest and excitement. The current player chooses an opposing manager to play against and they each arrange their 6 cards in an order of preference and place then FACE DOWN on the table. Both managers now turn over the top card and compare the numbers printed on them. The player with the higher number scores a goal. If the 2 players have the same number no goal is scored. If one of the players is a Goalie, no goal is scored, unless both are Goalies, in which case the higher value Goalie scores !. This continues until all 6 cards have been turned over and the team who scored the most goals is the winner and that manager advances his pawn one row up the scoring track. If the game is a tie then no advance is made.
During a game certain cards played are depicted as 'Bruisers'....these cause injury to those they compete against and the injured player is placed at the bottom of the appropriate category deck and is replaced for the next game by a card from the top of the same deck. By judicious placement of his 'Bruiser' the manager of a weaker team can severely damage his stronger opponents and the other managers now realise that the injured player is at the bottom of the card deck and will be coming up for Drafting pretty soon......
Other managers study the cards that are played by each manager in the game as they may wish to either trade with one of them (the stronger one) or play a match against them (the weaker one) when it is their own turn.
Hopefully the brief description above will give you an idea of the game mechanics. If you are dealt a weak team you will use the Draft option early on to try and strengthen your team before too many opponents play against you. If you're strong you will want to play matches against weak opposition to advance towards the playoffs, but what if your star player gets hit by a 'Bruiser' and is lost to your team ??
There is one final twist to the game....once the playoffs have been reached no more Drafting or Trading allowed.....you have to complete a series of games with what personnel you have (except for injured players who are replaced)....the playoffs culminate in a 'best of 7' series of games to determine the overall champions.
There's a lot of interaction in Slapshot and in my experience players really identify with their teams....you end up with your own personal favourites who seem to do well for you (mine's called Chubby Checker) and you really do have to think about the best option to take. Those of us not involved in a particular match have cheered loudly as a star player is injured...childish fun I know but well worth 2 hours of your time.
My copy is from Avalon Hill and is dated 1982 but the game was reissued in the late 1990's under the title "Phantoms of the Ice" and should be readily available.